By Frank Wedekind
Translated by André Tridon.
Copyright, 1913, by André Tridon.
All rights reserved.
Gerardo [Wagnerian tenor, thirty-six years old].
Helen Marova [a beautiful dark-haired woman of twenty-five].
Professor Duhring [sixty, the typical "misunderstood genius"].
Miss Isabel Cœhurne [a blonde English girl of sixteen].
Muller [hotel manager].
A Bell Boy.
An Unknown Woman.
Time: The present.
Place: A city in Austria.
The Tenor was first produced in America by the Washington Square Players.
Applications for permission to perform The Tenor must be addressed to André
Tridon, 121 Madison Avenue, New York.
By Frank Wedekind
[Scene: A large hotel room. There
are doors at the right and in the center,
and at the left a window with heavy
portières. Behind a grand piano at the
right stands a Japanese screen which
conceals the fireplace. There are several
large trunks, open; bunches of flowers
are all over the room; many bouquets
are piled up on the piano.]
Valet [entering from the adjoining
room carrying an armful of clothes which
he proceeds to pack in one of the trunks.
There is a knock at the door]. Come in.
Bell Boy. There is a lady who wants
to know if the Maestro is in.
Valet. He isn't in. [Exit Bell Boy.
The Valet goes into the adjoining room
and returns with another armful of
clothes. There is another knock at the
door. He puts the clothes on a chair
and goes to the door.] What's this
again? [He opens the door and some
one hands him several large bunches of
flowers, which he places carefully on the
piano; then he goes back to his packing.
There is another knock. He opens the
door and takes a handful of letters. He
glances at the addresses and reads
aloud: "Mister Gerardo. Monsieur
Gerardo. Gerardo Esquire. Signor
Gerardo." [He drops the letters on a
tray and resumes his packing.]
Gerardo. Haven't you finished packing
yet? How much longer will it take
Valet. I'll be through in a minute,
Gerardo. Hurry! I still have things
to do. Let me see. [He reaches for
something in a trunk.] God Almighty!
Don't you know how to fold a pair of
trousers? [Taking the trousers out.]
This is what you call packing! Look
here! You still have something to learn
from me, after all. You take the trousers
like this.... You lock this up here....
Then you take hold of these buttons.
Watch these buttons here, that's the important
thing. Then—you pull them
straight.... There.... There.... Then
you fold them here.... See.... Now
these trousers would keep their shape for
a hundred years.
Valet [respectfully, with downcast
eyes]. You must have been a tailor
Gerardo. What! Well, not exactly....
[He gives the trousers to the Valet.]
Pack those up, but be quick about it.
Now about that train. You are sure this
is the last one we can take?
Valet. It is the only one that gets
you there in time, sir. The next train
does not reach Brussels until ten o'clock.
Gerardo. Well, then, we must catch
this one. I will just have time to go
over the second act. Unless I go over
that.... Now don't let anybody.... I
am out to everybody.
Valet. All right, sir. There are some
letters for you, sir.
Gerardo. I have seen them.
Valet. And flowers!
Gerardo. Yes. all right. [He takes
the letters from the tray and throws
them on a chair before the piano. Then
he opens the letters, glances over them
with beaming eyes, crumples them up
and throws them under the chair.] Remember!
I am out to everybody.
Valet. I know, sir. [He locks the
Gerardo. To everybody.
Valet. You needn't worry, sir. [Giving
him the trunk keys.] Here are the
Gerardo [pocketing the keys]. To
Valet. The trunks will be taken down
at once. [He goes out.]
Gerardo [looking at his watch]. Forty
minutes. [He pulls the score of "Tristan"
from underneath the flowers on the
piano and walks up and down humming.]
"Isolde! Geliebte! Bist du
mein? Hab' ich dich wieder? Darf ich
dich fassen?" [He clears his throat,
strikes a chord on the piano and starts
again.] "Isolde! Geliebte! Bist du
mein? Hab' ich dich wieder?..." [He
clears his throat.] The air is dead here.
[He sings.] "Isolde! Geliebte...." It's
oppressive here. Let's have a little fresh
air. [He goes to the window at the left
and fumbles for the curtain cord.]
Where is the thing? On the other side!
Here! [He pulls the cord and throws
his head back with an annoyed expression
when he sees Miss Cœurne.]
Miss Cœurne [in three-quarter length
skirt, her blonde hair down her back,
holding a bunch of red roses; she speaks
with an English accent and looks straight
at Gerardo]. Oh, please don't send me
Gerardo. What else can I do? God
knows, I haven't asked you to come here.
Do not take it badly, dear young lady,
but I have to sing to-morrow night in
Brussels. I must confess, I hoped I
would have this half-hour to myself. I
had just given positive orders not to let
any one, whoever it might be, come up to
Miss Cœurne [coming down stage].
Don't send me away. I heard you yesterday
in "Tannhäuser," and I was just
bringing you these roses, and—
Gerardo. And—and what?
Miss Cœurne. And myself.... I don't
know whether you understand me.
Gerardo [holding the back of a chair;
he hesitates, then shakes his head.] Who
Miss Cœurne. My name is Miss
Gerardo. Yes.... Well?
Miss Cœurne. I am very silly.
Gerardo. I know. Come here, my
dear girl. [He sits down in an armchair
and she stands before him.] Let's have
a good earnest talk, such as you have
never had in your life—and seem to
need. An artist like myself—don't misunderstand
me; you are—how old are
Miss Cœurne. Twenty-two.
Gerardo. You are sixteen or perhaps
seventeen. You make yourself a
little older so as to appear more—tempting.
Well? Yes, you are very
silly. It is really none of my business,
as an artist, to cure you of your silliness....
Don't take this badly.... Now
then! Why are you staring away like
Miss Cœurne. I said I was very silly,
because I thought you Germans liked
that in a young girl.
Gerardo. I am not a German, but
just the same....
Miss Cœurne. What! I am not as
silly as all that.
Gerardo. Now look here, my dear girl—you
have your tennis court, your skating
club; you have your riding class,
your dances; you have all a young girl
can wish for. What on earth made you
come to me?
Miss Cœurne. Because all those
things are awful, and they bore me to
Gerardo. I will not dispute that.
Personally, I must tell you, I know life
from an entirely different side. But, my
child, I am a man; I am thirty-six. The
time will come when you, too, will claim
a fuller existence. Wait another two
years and there will be some one for you,
and then you won't need to—hide yourself
behind curtains, in my room, in the
room of a man who—never asked you,
and whom you don't know any better
than—the whole continent of Europe
knows him—in order to look at life
from his—wonderful point of view.
[Miss Cœurne sighs deeply.] Now then ...
Many thanks from the bottom of
my heart for your roses. [He presses
her hand.] Will this do for to-day?
Miss Cœurne. I had never in all my
life thought of a man, until I saw you
on the stage last night in "Tannhäuser."
And I promise you—
Gerardo. Oh, don't promise me anything,
my child. What good could your
promise do me? The burden of it would
all fall upon you. You see, I am talking
to you as lovingly as the most loving
father could. Be thankful to God that
with your recklessness you haven't fallen
into the hands of another artist. [He
presses her hand again.] Let this be a
lesson to you and never try it again.
Miss Cœurne [holding her handkerchief
to her face but shedding no tears].
Am I so homely?
Gerardo. Homely! Not homely, but
young and indiscreet. [He rises nervously,
goes to the right, comes back, puts
his arm around her waist and takes her
hand.] Listen to me, child. You are
not homely because I have to be a singer,
because I have to be an artist. Don't
misunderstand me, but I can't see why
I should simply, because I am an artist,
have to assure you that I appreciate
your youthful freshness and beauty. It
is a question of time. Two hundred,
maybe three hundred, nice, lovely girls
of your age saw me last night in the rôle
of Tannhäuser. Now if every one of
those girls made the same demands upon
me which you are making—what would
become of my singing? What would become
of my voice? What would become
of my art?
[Miss Cœurne sinks into a seat, covers
her face and weeps.]
Gerardo [leaning over the back of her
chair, in a friendly tone]. It is a crime
for you, child, to weep over the fact that
you are still so young. Your whole life
is ahead of you. Is it my fault if you
fell in love with me? They all do.
That is what I am for. Now won't you
be a good girl and let me, for the few
minutes I have left, prepare myself for
Miss Cœurne [rising and drying her
tears]. I can't believe that any other
girl would have acted the way I have.
Gerardo [leading her to the door].
No, dear child.
Miss Cœurne [with sobs in her voice].
At least, not if—
Gerardo. If my valet had stood before
Miss Cœurne. If—
Gerardo. If the girl had been as beautiful
and youthfully fresh as you.
Miss Cœurne. If—
Gerardo. If she had heard me only
once in "Tannhäuser."
Miss Cœurne [indignant]. If she were
as respectable as I am!
Gerardo [pointing to the piano]. Before
saying good-by to me, child, have a
look at all those flowers. May this be a
warning to you in case you feel tempted
again to fall in love with a singer. See
how fresh they all are. And I have to
let them wither, dry up, or I give them
to the porter. And look at those letters.
[He takes a handful of them from a
tray.] I don't know any of those women.
Don't worry; I leave them all to their
fate. What else could I do? But I'll
wager with you that every one of your
lovely young friends sent in her little
Miss Cœurne. Well, I promise not
to do it again, not to hide myself behind
your curtains. But don't send me
Gerardo. My time, my time, dear
child. If I were not on the point of
taking a train! I have already told you,
I am very sorry for you. But my train
leaves in twenty-five minutes. What do
Miss Cœurne. A kiss.
Gerardo [stiffening up]. From me?
Miss Cœurne. Yes.
Gerardo [holding her around the waist
and looking very serious]. You rob Art
of its dignity, my child. I do not wish
to appear an unfeeling brute, and I am
going to give you my picture. Give me
your word that after that you will leave
Miss Cœurne. Yes.
Gerardo. Good. [He sits at the table
and autographs one of his pictures.]
You should try to become interested in
the operas themselves instead of the men
who sing them. You would probably derive
much greater enjoyment.
Miss Cœurne [to herself]. I am too
Gerardo. Sacrifice yourself to music.
[He comes down stage and gives her the
picture.] Don't see in me a famous
tenor but a mere tool in the hands of
a noble master. Look at all the married
women among your acquaintances. All
Wagnerians. Study Wagner's works;
learn to understand his leit motifs. That
will save you from further foolishness.
Miss Cœurne. I thank you.
[Gerardo leads her out and rings
the bell. He takes up his piano
score again. There is a knock at
Valet [coming in out of breath]. Yes,
Gerardo. Are you standing at the
Valet. Not just now, sir.
Gerardo. Of course not! Be sure not
to let anybody come up here.
Valet. There were three ladies who
asked for you, sir.
Gerardo. Don't you dare to let any
one of them come up, whatever she may
Valet. And then here are some more
Gerardo. Oh, all right. [The Valet
places the letters on a tray.] And don't
you dare to let any one come up.
Valet [at the door]. No, sir.
Gerardo. Even if she offers to settle a
fortune upon you.
Valet. No, sir. [He goes out.]
Gerardo [singing]. "Isolde! Geliebte!
Bist du...." Well, if women don't get
tired of me—Only the world is so full
of them; and I am only one man.
Every one has his burden to carry. [He
strikes a chord on the piano.]
[Prof. Duhring, dressed all in black,
with a long white beard, a red
hooked nose, gold spectacles,
Prince Albert coat and silk hat, an
opera score under his arm, enters
Gerardo. What do you want?
Gerardo. How did you get in?
Duhring. I have been watching for
two hours for a chance to run up the
Gerardo. But, my dear good man, I
have no time.
Duhring. Oh, I will not play the
whole opera for you.
Gerardo. I haven't the time. My train
leaves in forty minutes.
Duhring. You haven't the time!
What should I say? You are thirty and
successful. You have your whole life to
live yet. Just listen to your part in my
opera. You promised to listen to it
when you came to this city.
Gerardo. What is the use? I am not
a free agent—
Duhring. Please! Please! Please!
Maestro! I stand before you an old
man, ready to fall on my knees before
you; an old man who has never cared
for anything in the world but his art.
For fifty years I have been a willing
victim to the tyranny of art—
Gerardo [interrupting him]. Yes, I
understand; I understand, but—
Duhring [excitedly]. No, you don't
understand. You could not understand.
How could you, the favorite of fortune,
you understand what fifty years of bootless
work means? But I will try to make
you understand it. You see, I am too
old to take my own life. People who do
that do it at twenty-five, and I let the
time pass by. I must now drag along to
the end of my days. Please, sir, please
don't let these moments pass in vain for
me, even if you have to lose a day
thereby, a week even. This is in your
own interest. A week ago, when you
first came for your special appearances,
you promised to let me play my opera
for you. I have come here every day
since; either you had a rehearsal or a
woman caller. And now you are on the
point of going away. You have only to
say one word: I will sing the part of
Hermann—and they will produce my
opera. You will then thank God for my
insistance.... Of course you sing Siegfried,
you sing Florestan—but you have
no rôle like Hermann in your repertoire,
no rôle better suited to your middle register.
[Gerardo leans against the mantelpiece;
while drumming on the top
with his right hand, he discovers
something behind the screen; he
suddenly stretches out his arm and
pulls out a woman in a gray gown,
whom he leads out of the room
through the middle door; after
closing the door, he turns to Duhring.]
Gerardo. Oh, are you still there?
Duhring [undisturbed]. This opera
is good; it is dramatic; it is a financial
success. I can show you letters from
Liszt, from Wagner, from Rubinstein,
in which they consider me as a superior
man. And why hasn't any opera ever
been produced? Because I am not crying
wares on the market-place. And then
you know our directors: they will revive
ten dead men before they give a live man
a chance. Their walls are well guarded.
At thirty you are in. At sixty I am still
out. One word from you and I shall be
in, too. This is why I have come, and
[raising his voice] if you are not an unfeeling
brute, if success has not killed in
you the last spark of artistic sympathy,
you will not refuse to hear my work.
Gerardo. I will give you an answer
in a week. I will go over your opera.
Let me have it.
Duhring. No, I am too old, Maestro.
In a week, in what you call a week, I
shall be dead and buried. In a week—that
is what they all say; and then they
keep it for years.
Gerardo. I am very sorry but—
Duhring. To-morrow perhaps you
will be on your knees before me; you
will boast of knowing me ... and to-day,
in your sordid lust for gold, you
cannot even spare the half-hour which
would mean the breaking of my fetters.
Gerardo. No, really, I have only thirty-five
minutes left, and unless I go over
a few passages.... You know I sing
Tristan in Brussels to-morrow night.
[He pulls out his watch.] I haven't
even half an hour....
Duhring. Half an hour.... Oh,
then, let me play to you your big aria at
the end of the first act. [He attempts
to sit down on the piano bench. Gerardo
Gerardo. Now, frankly, my dear sir
... I am a singer; I am not a critic.
If you wish to have your opera produced,
address yourself to those gentlemen
who are paid to know what is good
and what is not. People scorn and ignore
my opinions in such matters as
completely as they appreciate and admire
Duhring. My dear Maestro, you may
take it from me that I myself attach no
importance whatever to your judgment.
What do I care about your opinions? I
know you tenors; I would like to play
my score for you so that you could say:
"I would like to sing the rôle of Hermann."
Gerardo. If you only knew how many
things I would like to do and which I
have to renounce, and how many things
I must do for which I do not care in the
least! Half a million a year does not
repay me for the many joys of life which
I must sacrifice for the sake of my profession.
I am not a free man. But you
were a free man all your life. Why
didn't you go to the market-place and
cry your wares?
Duhring. Oh, the vulgarity of it....
I have tried it a hundred times. I am a
composer, Maestro, and nothing more.
Gerardo. By which you mean that you
have exhausted all your strength in the
writing of your operas and kept none
of it to secure their production.
Duhring. That is true.
Gerardo. The composers I know reverse
the process. They get their operas
written somehow and then spend all their
strength in an effort to get them produced.
Duhring. That is the type of artist I
Gerardo. Well, I despise the type of
man that wastes his life in useless endeavor.
What have you done in those
fifty years of struggle, for yourself or
for the world? Fifty years of useless
struggle! That should convince the worst
blockhead of the impracticability of his
dreams. What have you done with your
life? You have wasted it shamefully.
If I had wasted my life as you have
wasted yours—of course I am only
speaking for myself—I don't think I
should have the courage to look any one
in the face.
Duhring. I am not doing it for myself;
I am doing it for my art.
Gerardo [scornfully]. Art, my dear
man! Let me tell you that art is quite
different from what the papers tell us
Duhring. To me it is the highest
thing in the world.
Gerardo. You may believe that, but
nobody else does. We artists are merely
a luxury for the use of the bourgeoisie.
When I stand there on the stage I feel
absolutely certain that not one solitary
human being in the audience takes the
slightest interest in what we, the artists,
are doing. If they did, how could they
listen to "Die Walküre," for instance?
Why, it is an indecent story which could
not be mentioned anywhere in polite society.
And yet, when I sing Siegmund,
the most puritanical mothers bring their
fourteen-year-old daughters to hear me.
This, you see, is the meaning of whatever
you call art. This is what you have sacrificed
fifty years of your life to. Find
out how many people came to hear me
sing and how many came to gape at me
as they would at the Emperor of China
if he should turn up here to-morrow.
Do you know what the artistic wants of
the public consist in? To applaud, to
send flowers, to have a subject for conversation,
to see and be seen. They pay
me half a million, but then I make business
for hundreds of cabbies, writers,
dressmakers, restaurant keepers. It
keeps money circulating; it keeps blood
running. It gets girls engaged, spinsters
married, wives tempted, old cronies supplied
with gossip; a woman loses her
pocketbook in the crowd, a fellow becomes
insane during the performance.
Doctors, lawyers made.... [He coughs.]
And with this I must sing Tristan in
Brussels to-morrow night! I tell you all
this, not out of vanity, but to cure you
of your delusions. The measure of a
man's worth is the world's opinion of
him, not the inner belief which one finally
adopts after brooding over it for years.
Don't imagine that you are a misunderstood
genius. There are no misunderstood
Duhring.. Let me just play to you the
first scene of th second act. A park
landscape as in the painting, "Embarkation
for the Isle of Cythera."
Gerardo. I repeat to you I have no
time. And furthermore, since Wagner's
death the need for new operas has never
been felt by any one. If you come with
new music, you set against yourself all
the music schools, the artists, the public.
If you want to succeed just steal enough
out of Wagner's works to make up a
whole opera. Why should I cudgel my
brains with your new music when I
have cudgeled them cruelly with the
Duhring [holding out his trembling
hand]. I am afraid I am too old to learn
how to steal. Unless one begins very
young, one can never learn it.
Gerardo. Don't feel hurt. My dear
sir—if I could.... The thought of how
you have to struggle.... I happen to
have received some five hundred marks
more than my fee....
Duhring [turning to the door]. Don't!
Please don't! Do not say that. I did
not try to show you my opera in order
to work a touch. No, I think too much
of this child of my brain.... No, Maestro.
[He goes out through the center
Gerardo [following him to the door].
I beg your pardon.... Pleased to have
[He closes the door and sinks into an
armchair. A voice is heard outside:
"I will not let that man step
in my way." Helen rushes into
the room followed by the Valet.
She is an unusually beautiful
young woman in street dress.]
Helen. That man stood there to prevent
me from seeing you!
Helen. You knew that I would come
to see you.
Valet [rubbing his cheek]. I did all
I could, sir, but this lady actually—
Helen. Yes, I slapped his face.
Helen. Should I have let him insult
Gerardo [to the Valet]. Please leave
[The Valet goes out.]
Helen [placing her muff on a chair].
I can no longer live without you. Either
you take me with you or I will kill myself.
Helen. Yes, kill myself. A day like
yesterday, without even seeing you—no,
I could not live through that again. I
am not strong enough. I beseech you,
Oscar, take me with you.
Gerardo. I couldn't.
Helen. You could if you wanted to.
You can't leave me without killing me.
These are not mere words. This isn't a
threat. It is a fact: I will die if I can
no longer have you. You must take me
with you—it is your duty—if only for
a short time.
Gerardo. I give you my word of
honor, Helen, I can't—I give you my
Helen. You must, Oscar. Whether
you can or not, you must bear the consequences
of your acts. I love life, but
to me life and you are one and the same
thing. Take me with you, Oscar, if you
don't want to have my blood on your
Gerardo. Do you remember what I
said to you the first day we were together
Helen. I remember, but what good
does that do me?
Gerardo. I said that there couldn't be
any question of love between us.
Helen. I can't help that. I didn't
know you then. I never knew what a
man could be to me until I met you.
You know very well that it would come
to this, otherwise you wouldn't have
obliged me to promise not to make you
a parting scene.
Gerardo. I simply cannot take you
Helen. Oh, God! I knew you would
say that! I knew it when I came here.
That's what you say to every woman.
And I am just one of a hundred. I
know it. But, Oscar, I am lovesick; I
am dying of love. This is your work,
and you can save me without any sacrifice
on your part, without assuming any
burden. Why can't you do it?
Gerardo [very slowly]. Because my
contract forbids me to marry or to travel
in the company of a woman.
Helen [disturbed]. What can prevent
Gerardo. My contract.
Helen. You cannot....
Gerardo. I cannot marry until my
Helen. And you cannot....
Gerardo. I cannot travel in the company
of a woman.
Helen. That is incredible. And
whom in the world should it concern?
Gerardo. My manager.
Helen. Your manager! What business
is it of his?
Gerardo. It is precisely his business.
Helen. Is it perhaps because it might—affect
Helen. That is preposterous. Does
it affect your voice?
Helen. Does your manager believe
Gerardo. No, he doesn't.
Helen. This is beyond me. I can't
understand how a decent man could sign
such a contract.
Gerardo. I am an artist first and a
Helen. Yes, that's what you are—a
great artist—an eminent artist. Can't
you understand how much I must love
you? You are the first man whose superiority
I have felt and whom I desired
to please, and you despise me for it. I
have bitten my lips many a time not to
let you suspect how much you meant to
me; I was so afraid I might bore you.
Yesterday, however, put me in a state of
mind which no woman can endure. If I
didn't love you so insanely, Oscar, you
would think more of me. That is the
terrible thing about you—that you must
scorn a woman who thinks the world of
Helen. Your contract! Don't use
your contract as a weapon to murder me
with. Let me go with you, Oscar. You
will see if your manager ever mentions
a breach of contract. He would not do
such a thing. I know men. And if he
says a word, it will be time then for me
Gerardo. We have no right to do that,
Helen. You are just as little free to follow
me, as I am to shoulder such a responsibility.
I don't belong to myself; I
belong to my art.
Helen. Oh, leave your art alone.
What do I care about your art? Has
God created a man like you to make a
puppet of himself every night? You
should be ashamed of it instead of boasting
of it. You see, I overlooked the fact
that you were merely an artist. What
wouldn't I overlook for a god like you?
Even if you were a convict, Oscar, my
feelings would be the same. I would lie
in the dust at your feet and beg for your
pity. I would face death as I am facing
Gerardo [laughing]. Facing death,
Helen! Women who are endowed with
your gifts for enjoying life don't make
away with themselves. You know even
better than I do the value of life.
Helen [dreamily]. Oscar, I didn't
say that I would shoot myself. When
did I say that? Where would I find the
courage to do that? I only said that I
will die, if you don't take me with you.
I will die as I would of an illness, for I
only live when I am with you. I can live
without my home, without my children,
but not without you, Oscar. I cannot
live without you.
Gerardo. Helen, if you don't calm
yourself.... You put me in an awful
position.... I have only ten minutes
left.... I can't explain in court that
your excitement made me break my contract....
I can only give you ten minutes.... If
you don't calm yourself in
that time.... I can't leave you alone in
this condition. Think all you have at
Helen. As though I had anything
else at stake!
Gerardo. You can lose your position
Helen. I can lose you!
Gerardo. And your family?
Helen. I care for no one but you.
Gerardo. But I cannot be yours.
Helen. Then I have nothing to lose
but my life.
Gerardo. Your children!
Helen. Who has taken me from them,
Oscar? Who has taken me from my children?
Gerardo. Did I make any advances to
Helen [passionately]. No, no. I have
thrown myself at you, and would throw
myself at you again. Neither my husband
nor my children could keep me
back. When I die, at least I will have
lived; thanks to you, Oscar! I thank
you, Oscar, for revealing me to myself.
I thank you for that.
Gerardo. Helen, calm yourself and
listen to me.
Helen. Yes, yes, for ten minutes.
Gerardo. Listen to me. [Both sit
down on the divan.]
Helen [staring at him]. Yes, I thank
you for it.
Helen. I don't even ask you to love
me. Let me only breathe the air you
Gerardo[trying to be calm]. Helen—a
man of my type cannot be swayed
by any of the bourgeois ideas. I have
known society women in every country
of the world. Some made parting scenes
to me, but at least they all knew what
they owed to their position. This is the
first time in my life that I have witnessed
such an outburst of passion.... Helen,
the temptation comes to me daily to step
with some woman into an idyllic Arcadia.
But every human being has his duties;
you have your duties as I have mine,
and the call of duty is the highest thing
in the world....
Helen. I know better than you do
what the highest duty is.
Gerardo. What, then? Your love for
me? That's what they all say. Whatever
a woman has set her heart on winning
is to her good; whatever crosses her
plans is evil. It is the fault of our playwrights.
To draw full houses they set
the world upside down, and when a
woman abandons her children and her
family to follow her instincts they call
that—oh, broad-mindedness. I personally
wouldn't mind living the way turtle
doves live. But since I am a part of this
world I must obey my duty first. Then
whenever the opportunity arises I quaff
of the cup of joy. Whoever refuses to
do his duty has no right to make any demands
upon another fellow being.
Helen [staring absent-mindedly]. That
does not bring the dead back to life.
Gerardo [nervously]. Helen, I will
give you back your life. I will give you
back what you have sacrificed for me.
For God's sake take it. What does it
come to, after all? Helen, how can a
woman lower herself to that point?
Where is your pride? What am I in the
eyes of the world? A man who makes a
puppet of himself every night! Helen,
are you going to kill yourself for a man
whom hundreds of women loved before
you, whom hundreds of women will love
after you without letting their feelings
disturb their life one second? Will you,
by shedding your warm red blood, make
yourself ridiculous before God and the
Helen [looking away from him]. I
know I am asking a good deal, but—what
else can I do?
Gerardo. Helen, you said I should
bear the consequences of my acts. Will
you reproach for not refusing to receive
you when you first came here, ostensibly
to ask me to try your voice? What can
a man do in such a case? You are the
beauty of this town. Either I would be
known as the bear among artists who
denies himself to all women callers, or I
might have received you and pretended
that I didn't understand what you meant
and then pass for a fool. Or the very
first day I might have talked to you as
frankly as I am talking now. Dangerous
business. You would have called me
a conceited idiot. Tell me, Helen—what
else could I do?
Helen [staring at him with, imploring
eyes, shuddering and making an effort
to speak]. O God! O God! Oscar,
what would you say if to-morrow I
should go and be as happy with another
man as I have been with you? Oscar—what
would you say?
Gerardo [after a silence]. Nothing.
[He looks at his watch.] Helen—
Helen. Oscar! [She kneels before
him.] For the last time, I implore you....
You don't know what you are doing....
It isn't your fault—but don't let
me die.... Save me—save me!
Gerardo [raising her up]. Helen, I
am not such a wonderful man. How
many men have you known? The more
men you come to know, the lower all men
will fall in your estimation. When you
know men better you will not take your
life for any one of them. You will not
think any more of them than I do of
Helen. I am not like you in that respect.
Gerardo. I speak earnestly, Helen.
We don't fall in love with one person or
another; we fall in love with our type,
which we find everywhere in the world
if we only look sharply enough.
Helen. And when we meet our type,
are we sure then of being loved again?
Gerardo [angrily]. You have no right
to complain of your husband. Was any
girl ever compelled to marry against her
will? That is all rot. It is only the
women who have sold themselves for certain
material advantages and then try to
dodge their obligations who try to make
us believe that nonsense.
Helen [smiling]. They break their
Gerardo [pounding his chest]. When
I sell myself, at least I am honest about
Helen. Isn't love honest?
Gerardo. No! Love is a beastly
bourgeois virtue. Love is the last refuge
of the mollycoddle, of the coward. In
my world every man has his actual value,
and when two human beings make up a
pact they know exactly what to expect
from each other. Love has nothing to
do with it, either.
Helen. Won't you lead me into your
Gerardo. Helen, will you compromise
the happiness of your life and the happiness
of your dear ones for just a few
Gerardo [much relieved]. Will you
promise me to go home quietly now?
Gerardo. And will you promise me
that you will not die....
Gerardo. You promise me that?
Gerardo. And you promise me to fulfill
your duties as mother and—as wife?
Helen. Yes. What else do you want?
I will promise anything.
Gerardo. And now may I go away in
Helen [rising]. Yes.
Gerardo. A last kiss?
Helen. Yes, yes, yes. [They kiss
Gerardo. In a year I am booked again
to sing here, Helen.
Helen. In a year! Oh, I am glad!
Gerardo [tenderly]. Helen!
[Helen presses his hand, takes a revolver
out of her muff, shoots herself
Gerardo. Helen! [He totters and collapses
in an armchair.]
Bell Boy [rushing in]. My God!
Mr. Gerardo! [Gerardo remains motionless;
the Bell Boy rushes toward Helen.]
Gerardo [jumping up, running to the
door and colliding with the manager of
the hotel]. Send for the police! I must
be arrested! If I went away now I
should be a brute, and if I stay I break
my contract. I still have [looking at his
watch] one minute and ten seconds.
Manager. Fred, run and get a policeman.
Bell Boy. All right, sir.
Manager. Be quick about it. [To
Gerardo.] Don't take it too hard, sir.
Those things happen once in a while.
Gerardo [kneeling before Helen's body
and taking her hand]. Helen!... She
still lives—she still lives! If I am arrested
I am not wilfully breaking my
contract.... And my trunks? Is the
carriage at the door?
Manager. It has been waiting twenty
minutes, Mr. Gerardo. [He opens the
door for the porter, who takes down one
of the trunks.]
Gerardo [bending over her]. Helen!
[To himself.] Well, after all.... [To
Muller.] Have you called a doctor?
Manager. Yes, we had the doctor
called at once. He will be here at any
Gerardo [holding her under the arms].
Helen! Don't you know me any more? Helen! The doctor will be here right
away, Helen. This is your Oscar.
Bell Boy [appearing in the door at
the center]. Can't find any policeman,
Gerardo [letting Helen's body drop
back]. Well, if I can't get arrested, that
settles it. I must catch that train and
sing in Brussels to-morrow night. [He
takes up his score and runs out through
the center door, bumping against several